Thursday, April 27, 2017

A rotten vein bleeding in our oceans

     My name is Ramy Azer; as part of my critical writing for Engineers course taken with Dr. Ximena Hernandez, I had the opportunity to experience the detrimental effects our society has on the environment that sustains us. Shocked, to say the least, at how much toxic and dangerous trash was tossed in the only river of Los Angeles. My experience was at the mid-river where we spent 3 hours cleaning up the dried up river bed from a litany of waste. As I began to work, I noticed a lot of trash had already been accumulated and ready to be picked up and discarded properly; a chance to see what is coming my way when I begin doing my part of the clean-up. Plastic, was the predominant material present in the trash. The sad thing to see is how much stuff seemed to be actually functional and still useful. The trash had a lot of useful and usable items, like hairbrushes, perfectly intact plastic bags and a mirror! How does this end up in the middle of a river and where does it end up? The answer to this question is a reflection on who we are as a society.
    Our culture is that of a throw-away mentality; if you don't like it, if it is too old or if it is slightly not functional, then throw it away. One must remember that it is not just getting thrown away, but the items are being thrown away in an irresponsible manner that uncovers the lack of respect we have for our fragile ecosystem. People literally throw away what they don't like right in the streets. Storm gutters channel the trash along with water into the LA river. Trash accumulates in the river and goes right into our oceans. In the documentary, “Plastic Paradise The Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, I was shown where our trash ends up; the ocean, the recipient of all our throwaways. The documentary discussed some of the extents of where the trash ends up once it is in the ocean. Sadly, a majority of birds like seagulls fly out to the ocean garbage patch and they feed their babies the trash. The documentary showed multiple types of skeletons of birds filled with plastics that eventually killed them.
     It is scary to see how trash can layer over nature and completely change the way a plant or an animal grows. The trash is everywhere, and it seems like there is no end in sight with it. I was surprised to find medication discarded by and in the river. Full bottles of Vicodin and aspirin were just laying around. Full sized mattresses were tossed into the river! To say this is ridiculous, is to say the least. It is a river, a place where nature can grow and prosper; but people are choosing to use it as a trash channel instead. The unfortunate fact is that most people know that where tossing the trash in the street ends up. Yet people throw away so much right into the river without a second guess. This problem is big and terrifying, and it is getting bigger. We continue to manufacture plastic products, sell them at cheaper prices and more of them get tossed out. This issue is not going to stop without making some serious government enforced consequence to tossing out trash improperly. As this problem continues, we reach critical points of danger to our environment; we might not be able to reverse the damage and stopping our bad habits is not going to be enough. We need to change and fix the already done damage. What I witnessed, shocked me.
     Shrubbery, bushes and trees entangled in plastic everywhere you look. Massive pieces of metal laying in the middle of the riverbed, covered in rust and releasing the rust right into water. Plastic contaminating the water and when the river dries up, the plastic gets exposed to high heat from sun exposure which makes them release more carcinogenic substance into the river which goes to the ocean and hurts all the fish and birds that live in and off of the ocean. There was no spot anywhere in the river that did not look dirty and contaminated. Sharp items too which can hurt animals around the river. So much trash, it never felt so real until I experienced it first hand and it left me in shock and confusion. I would suggest a solution if I can really come up with a realistic one but unfortunately I can't think of one. I do hope that this changes and more people do their duty of cleaning up the LA river so we may limit the damage. All in all, the experience was sobering and scary; I believe everyone should experience this first hand as well.

Me at the end of the clean-up next to one of many piles of gathered trash

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